Do you have a new dog or puppy that you're trying to acclimate to your lifestyle? One of the most important parts of being a pet parent is deciding what to feed your dog, when to feed them, and how much food they need. Should you feed your dog once or twice a day? Should you always keep food in their bowl and allow your dog to graze? While there are no hard and fast rules, learn more about what’s generally recommended by veterinarians as to what time of day is best to feed your dog.
When is the best time to feed a dog?
The most common feeding frequency is feeding your dog twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. Dogs have a stomach structure that means they’ll get hungry between 8-10 hours after their last meal, so a breakfast/dinner schedule is better than breakfast/lunch or lunch/dinner or feeding them once a day.
The morning/evening feeding schedule often aligns with most pet parent's schedules as well because it fits the normal work or school day for a household. You can feed your dog in the morning when you have breakfast and when you come home and have your own dinner.
However, each dog is different and it can be difficult to establish routine eating behaviors and habits if your dog is a picky eater. It is important to establish a feeding routine for your dog to provide them the security and predictability of their mealtimes. Dogs of all ages do well with consistency, but it may be particularly important if your dog was rescued or has a past which may include food insecurity.
Grazing is less predictable - for you & your dog
Ask your veterinarian if you have any questions about the right time to feed your dog. In most cases, a veterinarian will advise against grazing for your pets. This is for weight management, consistency for your pet, and for other health reasons. Dogs have an emotional tie to mealtime, and having the predictability of mealtime helps during household changes such as welcoming a new pet or baby, vacation, or a child going off to college. A consistent mealtime schedule can help balance your dog physically (you can predict their potty breaks) and emotionally (they know their next meal is on the way).
This predictability will also help in many other ways. When a dog is used to the routine of eating, they will naturally be hungry before their mealtime. This means it will be easier to introduce new food changes if your dog needs to make a dietary adjustment.
Similarly, if your dog is sick or unwell, they may have a reduced appetite. It is easier to identify if your dog isn’t eating if they are refusing their typical, scheduled meals as opposed to random meals throughout your day. If you feed your dog sporadically, you may confuse being sick with not being hungry at that time. Be sure to consult with your veterinarian about your dog’s specific dietary needs as well.
How often should you feed a puppy?
Puppies are growing rapidly and require more food/feedings than adult dogs. Typically, in the first few months that puppies are able to eat solid food, it is recommended to feed them 3 or 4 times a day as opposed to 2. Of course, these meals are more frequent but should be smaller than a regular meal. Feeding your puppy consistently will help regulate their energy levels throughout the day.
The breed and size of your puppy will help determine the frequency they should be fed, so consult your vet to determine what is best for your puppy. A toy breed will require more frequent but smaller meals than a large breed puppy, for example.
Once your puppy is five or six months old, they should be ready to transition to mealtimes twice a day.
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